15 U.S. Cities With the Most Homes Built Before 1940

Old Victorian home
NIKKOS DASKALAKIS / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

When it comes to buying a newly built home, demand far outpaces supply. A survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that in 2018, 31% of homebuyers wanted to purchase a brand-new home. Another report by NAHB found that 41% of millennial homebuyers would prefer to own a brand-new home.

Despite many buyers’ preference for new homes, only about 11% of home sales each year are for new construction. The rest are for existing homes, many of which were built decades ago. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 12.3% of homes in the U.S. were built before 1940, while only 4.6% were built in the past five years.

Older homes have their pros and cons. According to research from the National Association of Realtors, many buyers who purchase existing homes appreciate their charm and character, and others believe that these homes offer lower prices or better value.

On the other hand, older homes also may be more expensive to own due to structural issues, outdated systems and cosmetic issues, as well as the presence of hazardous materials. Materials, like asbestos, lead-based paint and radon were once common building materials. However, these materials are now known to be hazardous to human health. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency states that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing lung diseases such as lung cancer. Additionally, mold and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from remodeling activities are more common in older homes.

Not surprisingly, some parts of the country are more likely to have older homes than others. States with the most older homes are located in the Northeast. By contrast, states in the South and the West have a significantly smaller share of older homes.

At the city level, there is significantly more geographic variation in which places have the most older homes. To find which cities have the highest percentage of homes built before 1940, researchers at Filterbuy analyzed housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates. Researchers also analyzed each city’s percentage of homes built after 2010, as well as the city’s median home price based on the Zillow Home Value Index. For reference, the median price for a home in the U.S. is $256,663.

To identify locations with the largest share of homes built before 1940, researchers divided the total number of housing units built in 1939 or earlier by the total number of existing housing units. The data includes all housing unit types, such as single-family homes, apartments and condominiums, among others. Locations were ordered by the share of housing units built before 1940. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater number of total housing units built before 1940 was ranked higher. Statistics on when the structure was originally built come from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey. Home price statistics come from the Zillow Home Value Index.

Only cities with at least 100,000 residents and available data from both sources were included.

15. Seattle

Barry Salmons / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 23.7%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 88,091
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 15.7%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 58,338
  • Median home price: $780,126

14. Portland, Oregon

Rigucci / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 27.6%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 82,428
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 7.2%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 21,377
  • Median home price: $478,498

13. New Orleans

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 32.2%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 61,959
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 4.2%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 8,011
  • Median home price: $234,036

12. Detroit

Detroit, Michigan
ehrlif / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 32.7%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 117,572
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 1.1%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 3,906
  • Median home price: $38,721

11. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 32.8%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 105,898
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 10.3%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 33,097
  • Median home price: $636,247

10. Oakland, California

Oakland, California
EddieHernandezPhotography / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 35.8%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 65,364
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 2%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 3,582
  • Median home price: $805,743

9. Milwaukee

Milwaukee on Lake Michigan
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 36.7%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 95,525
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 2.2%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 5,702
  • Median home price: $141,450

8. New York City

New York viewed from Brooklyn Bridge.
491615143 / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 39%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 1,383,287
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 4%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 141,024
  • Median home price: $654,683

7. Chicago

Chicago urban residential street
Mark Baldwin / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 40.4%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 492,213
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 4.1%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 49,375
  • Median home price: $256,191

6. Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 41.2%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 285,003
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 4%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 27,557
  • Median home price: $192,542

5. Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland
ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 42%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 123,352
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 3.7%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 10,904
  • Median home price: $154,813

4. Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minnesota residential area
719production / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 43.8%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 84,419
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 7.2%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 13,931
  • Median home price: $303,793

3. San Francisco

San Francisco
Pius Lee / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 45.1%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 183,323
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 5.4%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 21,940
  • Median home price: $1,416,879

2. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts
Sunny Chanruangvanich / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 48.2%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 146,449
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 7.2%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 21,916
  • Median home price: $653,078

1. Cleveland

Woman eating breakfast
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of homes built before 1940: 52.4%
  • Number of homes built before 1940: 108,943
  • Share of homes built in 2010 or later: 2.6%
  • Number of homes built in 2010 or later: 5,439
  • Median home price: $74,946

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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